Researchers have found that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. Their study found that it leads to a significantly higher risk of death when compared to other treatments.
For the study, the researchers gathered data on 96,032 patients across six continents with COVID-19 between December 20th, 2019, and April 14th, 2020. They received variations of chloroquine, hydrochloroquine and macrlides (antibiotics such as azithromycin and clarithomycin) within 48 hours of diagnosis. The researchers excluded patients who received remdesivir, already shown to improve patient outcomes, ventilator treatment, and those who received treatment after 48 hours from diagnosis.
After controlling their results for confounding factors such as age, sex, race, and ethnicity, the researchers found that those taking chloroquine regimens were more likely to die than those who did not. They also found that those patients on these regimens had an increased risk of ventricular arrhythmia, a condition that causes abnormal heartbeat and can result in sudden cardiac death.
The researchers thus concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that chloroquine is effective against COVID-19. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, says, "It's one thing not to have benefit, but this shows distinct harm...If there was ever hope for this drug, this is the death of it."
The researchers say that their findings provide a fair indication of the drug's effectiveness due to the study's large sample size. However, as itis a retrospective analysis of medical records and not a controlled clinical study, they caution that their results may not be conclusive.
As the results more or less echo results from smaller previous studies, however, Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said that the drug may be "harmful and that no one should be taking it outside of a clinical trial."